from The New York Times

A Vast Lake Has Captivated California Where Farms Stood a Year Ago

Tulare Lake re-emerged after intense storms battered the state this winter, and will likely remain in the Central Valley for months — and maybe years — to come.

By Shawn Hubler / Photographs by Mark Abramson

A watery landscape.
Officials say that the lake has reached its peak size and predict it will stay at its current level for the next one to two years.

It sounds like the sea and approaches the size of Lake Tahoe. Its wind-driven waves are unexpectedly silky and warm. Tulare Lake seems to go on forever on the immense brown and green flat of California’s Central Valley, shimmering like a great blue mirage.

Three months have passed since the lake, which dates to the Ice Age, re-emerged in the basin that once held the largest body of freshwater west of the Mississippi River. Dammed dry by humans, it has periodically attempted a comeback, though rarely with the force seen after this winter’s storms.

First a trickle, then a flood, the water that coursed into the lake bed over a handful of months swallowed one of the nation’s largest and most valuable stretches of cropland in about the time it takes to grow a tomato. Thirty square miles, then 50. Then 100. Then more.

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